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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 28, 2006

renku’d into submission

Filed under: pre-06-2006,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 11:58 pm

John Stevenson and Yu Chang introduced me to the poetic genre

of renku today — the short-form Junicho Renku, with twelve stanzas

of linked verses written by a group of poets. Although I literally had

never read an entire renku, Yu and John insisted that I start writing ths

highly-structured, over-regulated (many, many rules) genre over lunch

and, eventually, dinner.

tiny check At the bottom of this post, you will find a brief

description of Renku from the Haiku Society of America.

You can find links to sample renku and much information

about the genre at William J. Higginson’s Renku Home.




With sturm und angst (and a Thai dinner in an old German Bierhaus

located in downtown Schenectady), we produced twelve verses that

actually fit together rather well (I am still not at all sure what makes

a renku “good”).. We’re going to do some polishing.


It seems I survived, but I barely got home in time to post some haiku before turning into a pumpkin at midnight.

(update: Sheer Irony: the resulting poem, “Chinese New Year”, was selected as the 1st Place winner in the 2006 Einbond Renku Competition, of the Haiku Society of America; see our post)


Here are a pair each from John and Yu, along with my thanks for their guidance and patience:



children’s gardens
all the scarecrows
dressed like mom

another winter
the furnace

………………….. by John Stevenson


– Upstate Dim Sum (2004/I)






rough landing
the warmth
of your hand

wishing well
a borrowed coin lands
on the bronze monkey

…………… by
Yu Chang Upstate Dim Sum (2004/I)






dog black Happy Chinese New Year! The Year of the Dog!

dog tired —
no laurels
to rest on

………… dagosan

HSALogo From the Haiku Society of America Definitions page:

RENKU Definition: A renku is a linked-verse poem in the popular haikai style, particularly as practiced by Basho and later poets writing in his style.

Notes: In Japanese, “renku” is a modern equivalent for haikai no renga. Usually written by two or more people, a renku’s most important features are linking and shifting. “The best English approximation of the verse-rhythm of Japanese renku seems to be a poem . . . beginning with a three-line stanza, followed by a two-line stanza, and alternating three- and two-line stanzas thereafter. This parallels the gentle longer/shorter/longer rhythms basic to renku in Japanese . . . .”

Typical renku consist of eighteen, twenty, thirty-six, or more of these alternating stanzas, though even shorter forms have been popular in recent decades. “Note that the starting verse of a renku is what evolved into the ‘haiku’ as we know it, with its emphasis on the here and now. The remaining stanzas . . . should connect well with their preceding stanzas and provide opportunity for movement in a new direction for those following. . . . A major point of renku writing is to move forward, from stanza to stanza, through a great variety of time, weather, environment, activity,fauna, and flora. . . .

Stanzas focused on human activities and concerns should be balanced throughout with stanzas concentrating on landscapes, animal and plant life, and other subject matter.” (Quoted material from the “Report of the HSA Renku Contest Committee”, published in Frogpond XIII:2, May 1990, which contains more detailed guidelines for traditional-style renku and a bibliography of materials on the subject.)

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